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Lessons Learned from my PUMP GUY MAILBAG

Maintenance & Reliability

Lessons Learned from my PUMP GUY MAILBAG

A new and interesting pattern is developing in my work assignments in the last six months. My last few pump consulting projects have been with reliability engineers in different plants. And this letter to the Pump Guy illustrates the changing pattern.

Larry,

I am the new reliability engineer for a chemical company in the south. My mission is to improve pump reliability at our site. I could use some refresher training on pump basics. However, I have some other concerns.

The company instituted “reliability” as a department some 13 years ago at this facility. I am the fourth named reliability engineer at this plant. I am due to go to vibration analysis training in the coming weeks. We have four FFT spectrum analyzers that haven’t been used for months.

My predecessor, the ex-reliability engineer, rotated into maintenance scheduling. He wishes me luck and says the department is ripe for improvement. I met with some process engineers who said our MTBF statistics are inflated with stand-by pumps.

How can I bring significant change to the Reliability Department? Do you have any ideas?

Steve K.
Reliability & Equipment Engineer

Steve,

I can’t speak for your company because I don’t know your company, and I have never visited your plant. I can say there is a definite reliability movement in the industry, and many reliability departments are showing impressive gains in uptime of rotating equipment.

At the same time, I have visited recently with some reliability engineers who admit their program is faltering. Your message indicates all is not well at your facility.

No program can advance if upper management doesn’t believe in the program and its merits. So you must determine if management is working for, or against you.

It happens that some reliability programs falter even when management wants the program to succeed. The reliability engineer’s strategy is flawed. I verified this recently. You can’t start a reliability program by sending out a bulk email to all company employees with the new Corporate Reliability Mission Statement and then disappear to a vibration analysis school.

The reliability engineer must train the shop mechanics and the equipment operators so they will know how to contribute to reliability. An emailed reliability mission statement will be received with the same enthusiasm as all the previous “Programs of the Month” memos.

Walk down the hallway in your building and talk with the safety engineer. Ask him about the corporate Safety Program.

I have a good friend, Rickie, who instituted the Corporate Safety Program at a global paper company. This is what Rickie told me about starting a safety program: Everyone practices and contributes to safety, not just the safety engineer or the safety team. Everyone wears hard hats, safety glasses, ear protection, and safety boots in the process area, including the apprentices, part-timers, contractors, and secretaries.

Everyone goes to safety training, not just the safety officers. Everyone learns why safety is important. Everyone learns to recognize unsafe conditions and situations. As a result, accidents and ‘lost-time injuries’ are reduced to almost zero. Today, most industrial sites are “safe.”

I asked Rickie, “How does the safety engineer institute ‘safety’ as a corporate policy?”

Rickie said, “It is an uphill journey. The corporate bigwigs will throw a little goodwill money at the project to see what happens. It’s like watering a plant that you know might die.”

The safety engineer uses that goodwill money and studies the reports of plant-wide incidents, accidents, and injuries. The engineer identifies the most unsafe place in the plant. He doesn’t tackle the whole plant at once.

You invest your efforts where you can show the highest gains in a short time.

This article was originally published in the January 2014 issue of Flow Control magazine.

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